Panaji: Accusing the AAP of being ignorant on issues related to excesses committed in the mining sector in Goa, a green NGO in the state said that there is very little difference between it and the BJP when it comes to making fantastic electoral promises to people dependent on mining.
“The request for a raise in the cap (on volume of ore extraction) is already in the Supreme Court. But that is the request of the BJP government. So how is AAP different from the BJP? And is its proposal to raise the cap new?” Claude Alvares of the Goa Foundation said in a statement issued on Friday.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, during his visit to Goa earlier this week, had told a meeting of mining truck owners in Quepem village in Goa’s mining belt, that if voted to power, his party would approach the Supreme Court to increase the ore extraction cap from 20 million metric tons to 30 to 40 million metric tons.
After the apex court lifted the ban on mining in Goa two years ago, it set a cap of 20 million tons, which has upset both the mining industries as well as the powerful truckers lobby, which used to ferry nearly all of the 50 million tons of extracted iron ore before all mining was banned in 2012.
Truckers over the last few years, were even given a monthly allowance by the BJP-led coalition government in order to help them pay off loans, because of the slump following the mining ban which led to virtually nil ore transportation activity.
Alvares has described Kejriwal’s promise to examine ways to increase the mining cap, as a “populist promise” by the Delhi chief minister to win over the trucker lobby.
“The problem here is that higher the cap, the quicker the minerals are exhausted, leaving nothing for future generations. How will we face our children when they ask us why we did not leave anything for them or future generations? Is this fair?” he asked.
Alvares has however welcomed Kejriwal’s promise to go after the mining magnates, indicted in the Justice MB Shah Commission report in the Rs 35,000 crore illegal mining scam. Alvares said that the scam, which is being examined by the Supreme Court following a petition by Goa Foundation, could well be worth Rs 65,000 crore.
He also said that like his IITian counterpart, former Goa Chief Minister (and now Defence Minister) Manohar Parrikar, Kejriwal had also promised much reform in the mining sector, but may end up achieving little.
“Kejriwal promises to make Goa’s mining the best in the world! We had a metallurgist, ostensibly trained in IIT as our CM for some years. If he could not ensure environmentally sound mining, we doubt Kejriwal can, with no experience whatsoever. However, we strongly support the idea of environmentally sustainable, green, honest mining,” Alvares said.